Don’t Believe the Hype: Cleantech Is Creating Jobs Now, And Can Generate Many More


There has been endless hype about the so-called clean economy-from both ends of the spectrum. It has been called both “a compelling aspiration and an enigma” and it has been difficult to assess. Discussion has frequently been short on facts and long on anecdotes, speculation, assertion, and partisanship. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that cleantech can be employed as a key and visible function in some companies and as a less-visible adjunct within others.

To help shed light on this problem, Brookings released today a highly-anticipated study entitled “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment.” It is an endeavor to create a definition of the clean economy and quantify its significance.

Brookings, working with Battelle, starts by proposing a definition: The clean economy produces goods and services with an environmental benefit.

The findings suggest that there is real significance behind the hype.

• 2.7 million Americans are employed in clean economy jobs spread over a diverse group of industries. The report notes that the sector is larger nationally than the fossil fuels and the biotech sectors. It is about 60 percent of the size of the IT-producing sector.

• Newer cleantech segments (such as wind, solar, and smart grid) added jobs at a ‘torrid pace’ between 2003 and 2010, but more established segments (housing and building) lagged national employment growth (largely because of layoffs during 2007-08). Overall, total job growth during the period was 3.4 percent compared to the national average of 4.2 percet.

• The clean economy is manufacturing intensive: 25 percent of jobs compared to 9 percent in the broader economy.

• The clean economy is export intensive: On average, twice of much value is exported from cleantech jobs than the national average.

• There are more opportunities and better pay for low-and middle-skilled workers. Median wages are 13 percent higher.

• Most cleantech jobs are concentrated in metropolitan areas in varied configurations.

• Strong industry clusters boost metropolitan areas growth performance in the clean economy.

The status of the Seattle metropolitan region suggests that the clean economy in our region has both significance and potential.

• According to Brookings, there are 31,340 clean economy jobs in the Seattle area and we rank 13th among the 100 largest metro areas.

• Clean economy jobs … Next Page »

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J. Thomas Ranken is President & CEO of CleanTech Alliance Washington, the nation’s largest state-level clean technology industry association representing more than 300 businesses and organizations. Founded in 2007 by business leaders, the Alliance facilitates the generation and growth of cleantech companies, jobs, products and services to advance the state’s position as a leader in cleantech. Learn more at Follow @

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